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Choosing an event venue is the one decision that will have the largest impact on your event. The venue can serve to amplify the theme by providing the appropriate environment and experience.
Before you begin your search you will want to have a strong understanding of:
- Number of attendees
- Type of event (e.g. dinner, reception, government funding announcement, etc.)
- Time of year (e.g. indoor vs. outdoor event)
- Event theme
Once you have an idea of these five things, you can begin your search for a venue. It is recommended that you book the venue and confirm the event date three to six months prior to the event. For popular venues, you may need to book a year in advance.
The event date will inform the timeline and milestones you will need to work with until your event happens. Additionally, this will give you ample time to market your event.
To assist with making this important decision, consider the following:
Consider the cost of the venue in your overall budget planning. If you are able to save on the venue cost, you may have more budget to allocate for food and beverage and/or entertainment. Some venues will waive the rental cost of the room if you order a large enough quantity of catering. In addition, being flexible on the date can be a great negotiating tool, as certain days of the week tend to cost less (e.g. weekdays vs. weekends).
- Should SFU's Burnaby, Vancouver or Surrey campuses be featured?
- Where will your event guests be travelling from?
- Is the venue a reasonable distance from where most of your guests work or live?
- Is the venue accessible by transit?
- Will the event be held indoors or outdoors? Consider the time of year and the weather if planning to hold an outdoor event and always have a back-up plan for inclement weather.
If you are considering a venue at SFU’s Burnaby, Vancouver or Surrey campuses, please contact SFU Meeting, Event and Conference Services (MECS) to book your event space and to coordinate catering, set-up/take-down and AV needs.
Burnaby: 778-782-4910 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Vancouver: 778-782-5800 | email@example.com
Surrey: 1-866-619-6338 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Recommended external venues
SFU offers a variety of excellent in-house venue options at the Burnaby, Vancouver and Surrey campuses. However, if you need to book an external venue, we recomend the following locations:
It is best to select a venue that aligns with the number of guests you are expecting to attend. If the room is too large, it will feel empty and awkward for the guests. If the room is too small, it will feel very crowded, hot and uncomfortable.
The venue's capacity will vary depending on the format of your event. For example, if you are planning a stand-up reception, you will be able to fit more guests in the space than if you are planning a sit-down dinner.
If your venue offers food and/or beverages, find out what the food and beverage minimums are and request this information in writing.
Based on the various elements you would like to incorporate, consider the event layout:
- Tables, high boys, seating (e.g. theatre, boardroom, classroom, banquet, reception), catering stations/buffet, bar, lounge furniture, coat racks, registration area, etc.
- Signage, decor, props, staging, podium, flags
- AV including lighting, speakers, microphones, screens, projectors, AV booth, video cameras, photography, media areas
- Display booths, information tables, sponsor info
- Entertainment, performances, musicians, photo booth
- Tents, heaters, garbage receptacles, recycling, etc.
- If you have a speaking program, will all the guests be able to gather together to listen to the speakers?
Also, think about traffic flow and high traffic areas such as the registration table, entrances and the bar/food stations. Obtain a floorplan from the venue with a few different layout options, then select the option that will work best with the venue and the event elements you are planning. Be prepared to tweak the layout onsite once you see everything set up in the space.
It is important to take into consideration the services and amenities that the venue offers.
Consider the following:
- Does the venue have a kitchen? Is there an in-house caterer?
- Does the venue have a contract with an exclusive caterer or can you hire any caterer?
- Is there an internal AV provider or does it need to be outsourced?
- Does the venue have tables, chairs and linens you can use, or do you need to rent these items?
- Is there a set-up/clean-up crew available?
- Is there ample parking available or public transit access?
- Is there a fee for parking?
- Will the parking lot be available/open at your event end time?
- Is security provided or necessary at the venue?
The event space, building and amenities should be easily accessible by those with mobility limitations, visual impairments, hearing impairments, the elderly and children. Ensure you are familiar with the demographics of your event attendees and anticipate any special accommodations they may need including ramp access, baby change stations, special seating arrangements, a transcriber or signer, access to a wheelchair, etc.
To ensure that your event is as inclusive as possible, the SFU Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Initiative offers an inclusive events checklist and SFU Public Square has developed an accessible and inclusive event planning guide. If the event is on campus and you have guests requiring special accommodations, contact Centre for Accessible Learning at 778-782-3112 or email@example.com.
Pay special attention to the existing decor inside the venue. What style is the architecture and what does the building’s interior convey? The less the ambience matches the desired feeling of your event (e.g. upscale, high tech, etc.) the more decorating you will need to do to achieve your desired vision. Décor can be expensive.
The architecture of the venue has an impact on the sound quality you’ll be able to achieve once the space is filled with people.
Consider the following:
- Does it echo?
- Is it loud?
- Are there acoustic dead-zones?
Work with an AV company to determine the best options for producing quality sound in the space.
For SFU internal events, SFU IT Services can be contacted through MECS to provide the AV for your event.
If your event has several technical requirements, consider hiring an external company to provide AV support for your event. SFU receives a discounted rate with SWAV.
Keep in mind that some venues will have a preferred or in-house AV provider, so always consider checking with them first.
If you are holding your event at an external venue, the venue will likely produce a contract that both parties will need to sign to confirm the booking. Be sure to review the terms of the contract thoroughly and have someone with signing authority in your department sign the document. If there are areas of question or concern within the contract, contact Safety and Risk Services for input. Don’t hesitate to negotiate the terms outlined within the contract if the terms do not align with SFU’s policies and procedures. Most venues require proof of liability insurance to rent the space.
To request a certificate of insurance complete the online form or contact the Director of Risk Management at 778-782-4380 or firstname.lastname@example.org.